(NaturalNews) Fortified orange juice is just as effective at delivering vitamin D to the body as supplements in pill form, according to a study conducted by researchers from Boston University and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
"The consumer now has one more option for obtaining vitamin D in the diet," said Dennis Wagner, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto.
Vitamin D is naturally produced by the body upon exposure to sunlight, but declining time spent outdoors and overuse of sunscreen have created widespread deficiency even in areas near the equator, where the sun is stronger. The vitamin has been added to milk since the 1930s, yet high rates of deficiency persist.
"A lot of people don't drink milk," researcher Michael Holick said, "but they do drink OJ in the morning."
After Holick and colleagues conducted preliminary research showing that orange juice might be a good vehicle for delivering vitamin D, juice companies Minute Maid and Tropicana began adding the vitamin to some of their products. But many researchers had questioned whether the body could even absorb vitamin D from orange juice, because the vitamin is fat soluble and orange juice is low in fat.
In the new study, funded by Minute Maid parent company Coca-Cola, Holick and colleagues randomly assigned 100 adults to drink a glass of either fortified or non-fortified orange juice every day, in addition to a pill that was either a vitamin D supplement or a placebo. After 11 weeks, the increase in vitamin D levels among those who drank the fortified orange juice was identical with those who took the real pill, however.
The U.S. government only allows food to be fortified with 100 IU per serving. Thus, it would still be difficult to get enough vitamin D from orange juice alone.
Holick recommends that people get their vitamin D by spending short periods of time (less than it takes to burn) with their unprotected skin exposed to the sun.
"Mother Nature designed the system very early to guarantee that we got enough vitamin D," he said. "Everyone was outside all the time, making it for free.'"